Urban Survival: 10 Worst Places To Hide In The City If SHTF

Even though the stock market is soaring, our nation is in more danger than ever because of extreme natural disasters and rogue factions itching to run riot.

Now consider these problems along with the very real potential for food shortages, an escalation of the war with North Korea, and general increases in contagious diseases.

No matter how much or little prepping you have done, the fact remains something can still catch you off guard at any time. If you are in a city, and need a place to hide, it is very easy to make a bad decision.

Have a look at 10 places you might go to without thinking, and wind up with even more problems than you had before.

Open Areas Above Ground

There are many situations where you will need to get out of the building you are in as quickly as possible. If there is a fire, flood, or the building is struck by some kind of bomb, then you have to get out before the building collapses.

Once you are clear of the building, the worst thing you can do is stay out in the open, as a lot of bad things can happen:

  • Debris and smoke from the building can easily fly in all directions and land on you.
  • If you ran outside because of an earthquake, surrounding buildings may also begin to cave in and send debris in all directions.
  • If the situation involves several buildings, other people will also be panicking and trying to get out of the buildings as fast as possible. You can easily be stampeded or injured as people try to get away from danger as quickly as possible.
  • Do not make the mistake of trying to get in your car and hoping it will shelter you. A car has an even weaker frame than a building. Falling debris can easily crush it and leave you trapped inside. In addition, if there is a bad enough panic, people may literally try to tear your vehicle apart or take other actions to prevent you from leaving the scene.

After you successfully leave a building that you feel is dangerous, the best thing you can do is get underground as quickly as possible.

How To Build a Small Bunker in Your Backyard with $400

Find out in time which manhole covers in your city offer safe access tunnels or other areas to hide in. In general, service tunnels will be safer than subways or other popular public areas in situations where hostile forces are attempting to take over the city.

Upper Floors of Any Building

Unless you are dealing with a hurricane or other flood that prevents you from getting to the ground level, stay away from the upper floors of a building. The upper floors are always the weakest, and also the hardest to escape from on your own.

No matter whether you are afraid of your building being taken over by hostile forces, or you must escape a fire, once you reach the top floor, you can still wind up being trapped. If you must go to the upper floors of a building, try to have the following on hand:

  • A cell phone, pocket mirror, or something else you can use to signal that you need help
  • Heavy duty rope and hooks that you can use to attach the rope to another building. You will need to practice your skills to make it safely from one building to another.
  • An ax for breaking down walls or through roofs An ax can also be used for defense if nothing else is available.

Places With Easily to See Doors or Windows

The ability to get out of a building easily can also spell disaster if unwanted people can get to you and trap you in your location. If you are truly trying to hide from other people, the worst thing you can do is be anywhere near a door or window.

If there is a visible door or window that can be breached, people looking for you or anything of value will try to get in. If you have a panic room or a basement hiding place, maintain their exits without drawing unwanted attention:

  • Use poison ivy, nettles, and other noxious plants to cover secret entrances and exits. This includes exit points coming up from tunnels or other underground locations. Just remember to have coveralls and suitable tools for cutting the vegetation away so that you can make your escape with as little pain as possible.
  • Cover up a back door, side entrance, or window with faux siding. Repaint your home or take other steps to make the covering look as permanent as possible. You should still be able to knock the covering out with ease in time of need. Your goal is to make the window or exit invisible to outside observers. Even if neighbors do remember a window or door in that location, the covering will hopefully make people overlook the area since they will think it is closed off.
  • Try to make at least one exit tunnel in your basement or crawlway to a location at or near the boundary of your property. Be sure you know where all gas and other maintenance lines are so you do not tunnel in those areas.

Near Roadways or Other Traffic Areas

Regardless of the crisis type, people will be trying to escape in their vehicles, and the worst thing you can do is try to hide in a traffic jam or near a crowded roadway.

In these instances, road blocks, surveillance teams, and even hostile forces can see you and control you with relative ease. No matter whether you have plans to get out of the city, or you decide to stay close to home, it is never a good idea to be near roadways or heavy traffic.

If you must use roadways or be near them, you can choose one of two times:

  • First, if you are certain that you can get through a roadblock or other impediment with no problems, then do so when it would be normal for people like you to be passing through the area.
  • Second, you can try to slip through when there is a situation going on. If someone else panics or causes a disruption that leads to a grouping of people around an area away from a passage point, you can try to slip through.


One has only to look at the number of mass shootings in “gun free” school zones to know they are absolutely the most dangerous places on Earth. Aside from that, never forget that Timothy McVeigh and many others intent on mayhem these days don’t need guns to destroy schools.

People with criminal intent will go there first because they know they will have as much time as they want to carry out their sick plans before someone with a gun gets there to stop them at the scene or apprehend them later on. No matter where you go, if you are in a city and need a safe place to go, avoid schools at all cost.

While most people in the United States don’t give it much thought, schools are also likely to be the target of hostile takeover in a time of riots and other forms of severe national distress. Any criminal or terrorist will flock to a school first because it is poorly defended and helpless children in harm’s way makes for a huge media splash.

Schools are also not the best places to go in the event of a natural disaster. Even though they often have generators and the room to accommodate large numbers of people, many of these buildings are on the verge of being structurally unsound.

Check the maintenance records and needs of local schools, and you may be surprised to find out they may not hold up very well in the face of a hurricane or other severe weather condition. Without a question, if you are in an inner city area or other poor neighborhood, the schools may be in worse condition than other buildings in the area.


In many senses, hospitals are as dangerous as schools, and for the same reasons. Hospitals may have weak or failing building structures, and they also house vulnerable people whose condition may easily grab media attention.

While hospitals do have better security staffing than schools, it may still not be enough to overcome problems created by large numbers of people in panic mode. If the situation is bad enough, people may even try to storm the hospital to steal food, drugs, or anything else than can be of use.

At this time, we would all like to think that in time of need, hospitals will be safe from scavenging and other predatory behaviors because our culture has deeply ingrained values about the sanctity of a medical setting.

That being said, we also live in a culture of sick video games and the unhealthy crossing of many other boundaries. Do not be surprised if at some point hospitals also become prey to predation during times of crisis.

Depending on the situation, hospitals can also be places where you can catch some very dangerous diseases. Right now, hospitals do have better air filtering systems than you would find in other areas. On the other side of the equation, if the cause of the crisis is disease related, that also means people infected will go to the hospital for treatment.

As a result, if you are still healthy, going to the hospital may expose you to the disease unnecessarily.


When I was growing up, my mother always said “if you are in a bad way and have no place else to turn, go to the church”. While many of the things my mother said have withstood the test of time, I cannot help but question going to a church for safety in time of need.

As with schools, churches have become the target of lunatics and predators seeking to harm the unarmed and the vulnerable.

To add insult to injury, as our society slips closer and closer to complete mass disruption, it is possible that churches will be targeted just to kill off those who avow a specific faith. Our history as far back as time goes is one in which people are ruthlessly slaughtered for their beliefs and affiliations.

Depending on the type of crisis, going to a church for shelter may truly be the worst thing you can do. While a church may offer suitable shelter from a blizzard or other relatively short term situation, I don’t recommend it for matters where civil unrest is expected.

Above Ground Areas of Malls or Other Public Gathering Locations

Large numbers of people in malls or other large public shelters can pose a number of problems. First, under stressful situations, you never know what, when, or how a stampede will get started. As the waves of panic ripple through the crowd, it may be impossible for you to escape.

If you are dealing with any kind of hostile takeover, rest assured that occupying forces will always look to subdue the largest numbers of able bodied people as quickly as possible. This, in turn, means, they will go to the malls and other areas where large numbers of people will prevent evacuation and escape.

Needless to say, if you are concerned about air raids, bombings, or other hostile acts, the enemy will still seek to hit maximize casualties by hitting large and popular public areas.

It is important to remember that underground areas of malls may still provide a safe place to hide in the city. For example, older malls may actually have long forgotten bomb shelters in the basement, or other areas that are fortified enough to ensure some degree of safety.

Therefore, if you have malls nearby, make it a point to see if underground parking garages or other underground facilities housed in the mall may be of use in a time of need.

Temporary Camps

During crisis, there is a natural tendency for people to try and organize in order to regain stability as quickly as possible. Some say temporary camps may be useful in the first hours or days after some natural disasters.

Here are just a few problems that you might face if staying at a temporary shelter in a city for too long:

  • Within a fairly short period of time, criminals and other unsavory people will try to take advantage of the situation, trying to rob you or hurt you. Order can, and does, break down very quickly in temporary camps despite access to food and other basics.
  • As with hospitals, you may also wind up being exposed to many illnesses, which is especially important if the crisis occurs during the flu season or another time when communicable diseases are likely to spread quickly in tight quarters.
  • If extensive areas of the outer society collapse, you will be a sitting duck and forced to go wherever you are told to go. While this may not be a problem if it is our national guard, police, or FEMA officials directing you to a safer location, it can be a huge problem if an invading force or hostile insurgents take over the camp.

Overall, temporary camps set up for crisis management can be of help, especially if you have no bug out plans or do not know where to begin to put your life back together after a large scale crisis.

It is still worth your while to get out of the camp as quickly as possible so that you can avoid problems associated with living in such close contact with others.

Places Where You Do Not Blend in With Others

Many people believe there is safety in numbers. As long as you are wearing the same kinds of clothes and act the same as the local people, then it is possible for you to hide in plain sight even in a big city during a major crisis.

On the other hand, if you don’t fit into the local scenery, then you may become a target for just about anyone that decides they have a reason to attack you. The only way to make sure you will be safe merging into a crowd for any reason during a crisis is to practice your skills now.

Just because you live in a city, that doesn’t mean your local area cannot be hit by massive floods, fires, or hostile takeovers. In fact, if you are in a city during a major crisis, the sheer number of people trying to deal with the situation can easily work against you.

When facing these kinds of situations, you must always think objectively about possible places where you can go to be safe.

Avoiding the ten problem areas listed in this article, and you may have a better chance of survival and find a suitable shelter before it’s too late!

Written by

Carmela Tyrrell is committed to off gridding for survival and every day life. She is currently working on combining vertical container gardening with hydroponics. Tyrrell is also exploring ways to integrate magnetic and solar power generation methods. On any given day, her husband and six cats give thanks that she has not yet blown up the house. You can send Carmela a message at editor [at] survivopedia.com.

Latest comments
  • Thank you for this info. Appreciate it.

  • “Heavy duty rope and hooks that you can use to attach the rope to another building. You will need to practice your skills to make it safely from one building to another.” …. I can see most of America acting like James Bond …. except they’re fat, sloppy, weak and skill less.

    • Shaken, Not stirred.

    • So, you really mean “dead? right ?

  • I really like the root cellar, as presented here, but have no way to re-produce one book, let alone three. I would be willing to pay more for the material if it were in printed form and bound, even loose leaf, as well as shipping cost.

    Thank you, for all you do!
    Lavon, Texas

    • Hey Fredrick, If you simply download the book and copy it to a flash drive, Kinkos, Office Max, or any of a number of places can print it for you. Good luck, John

    • You can get this information at your local library, just as the tips above. Survival us not a new concept, and many have learned valuable lessons from all kids if situations. Just look it up or check your local library. For the price if membership, books etc are as many as you can read and even from other library connections. Enjoy!

  • So, in a nutshell, avoid groups of people like the plague. And stay out of sight.

  • A car has an even weaker frame than a building..
    Whod’a thunk it.

  • Not a good idea to go underground if buildings are about to collapse around you. you could be trapped for days. There’s nothing wrong with getting away from the danger zone, then going into hiding.

  • In regard to manholes – unless it’s a communications vault – forget electrical or sewer involvement – more danger than what it’s worth ….

    dig an escape tunnel from your basement? – save it for an episode of the revived Doomsday Preppers show – sorry, just about the stupidest thing you could possibly DIY …

  • Word to the wise, think about what you read and validate through research and practice. Military publications, by their very nature are a very dry read, but you can bet it’s been tested and trained extensively. Bottom line, use your head and look at everything. Plan your actions with a broad stroke and leave room for contingencies. Make an if-then-this plan, but never lock yourself into, “This is my plan and I will not deviate.” Walk your plan and visualize different things going on around you, how/what/would/should you do. This is the start of an if-then-this plan. Expand on it.

  • You may have bailed on schools and churches too quickly. Those can become targets of lunatics — in regular times. IN an SHTF environment, school children would not be gathered together in tempting targets. For that matter, lunatics would have more on their minds that shooting up soft targets out of ego/rage/whatever.

    Churches, likewise, would not be holding regular services in peaceful, sheep-like manner. Worshippers would still be there, but the odds are they’d be armed and cautious. What with Christian Charity, they might be more inclined to take you in, than any other random group.

    Another advantage of a church or a school, is that they would be ’empty’ targets from a looter’s perspective. Little incentive to root around looking for stuff they might want to loot.

    • “What with Christian Charity, they might be more inclined to take you in, than any other random group”
      As a Jew, I take that statement as an insult.. Do you imply that a synagogue, Buddhist Temple,or other religious establishment would be more likely to torn one away?

      or is it only the “christian” thing to do, (a statement just as bigoted as “that’s white of you”)

      • Yeah, Muslim and liberals are known for their charity!

      • Grintch:

        I cited “Christian” charity because the author cited “churches”. She did not mention synagogues or temples.

        It seems a stretch to infer that to state one thing necessarily means the exclusion of all else. If I said you were a good father, would you automatically infer that I just said you were a bad husband and a bad worker?

        Being easily insulted makes for a pretty sad life. As a Jew, you know God wants more for you than that.

    • Mic roldand – don’t even bother to reply to grintch. I have friends and family who are of all religions he’s stated and they’d all agree with your statement – christian charity is like no other in the world. i have jewish blood on my father’s side, my favorite people in the world are jewish yet i take no offense to the truth = that being christian charity – and am thankful daily for it. just ignore the grintch who stole christmas. in fact, i happen to know several jewish charities who only take care of their own. and i’m sure grintch would be more than welcome at another temple we will not mention here – oh, i think not – no, he would not be welcome – but jews are always welcome at our christian brothers churches, especially catholic churches here in U.S. grintch has to be a major lib – always looking for something to be pissed off about.

    • Amen to that mic !

      I am by no means a church regular but I am a trained soldier with a great respect for the church and its followers.
      “One” of my disaster plans is to head there and defend the good folk.
      Not just to be good but also because a lot of these good folk will have skills that will keep me alive and keep a sense of community.
      I may not go to heaven but god help the bad guy that tries to harm the people I’m guarding.
      The oath to God and country never comes off !!

  • After all the drugs have been looted, and patients dead or evacuated, a hospital could be turned into a defensible building. Be sure to scrounge,buy or steal some diesel fuel.. At the main breaker,turn everything off. Start the generator. Now you can bring the CCTV cameras back on line. From the security office,one person can monitor the entire building. Just a thought.

    • You have watched too many crappy survival shorts off youtube.
      Bad idea overall, too many variables, corners, space.
      Plus with 3 people it’s simple to corner anyone in hospital corridors.

  • One of the safest places you can hide is a warehouse. . Most of the modern buildings are tilt up panel which means they are constructed from 8-10″ concrete slabs that are poured on the floor then stood up. They have 20 foot tall ceilings and can be easily defended from the roof. They have few if any windows, the entry and exit doors are few and the dock doors are roll up steel and can be barricaded with the contents of the warehouse.. If you are lucky enough to find one that’s a food warehouse that’s much better.

  • Don’t forget FEMA is BROKE- Do not depend on the government to feed or shelter you and yours.

  • With reference to warehouses in the above post – Don’t forget — warehouses are typically full of STUFF ! Try to find a warehouse for Sams or Walmart !!

    • Or ammo-land, or DARPA, or Ruger… An mre warehouse possibly?
      Most wonm’t be that lucky.

      Minimart backroom type of places is what I would look for, resupply if possible and disappear.

  • BTW this is more original compared to the usual junk I find even if a little dated.

    Always nice to find something that makes you think new rather than think… blahblah

  • I have a lot of thoughts on comments I read.
    1. CHURCHES. Most churches are small with meager income. Their clergy will tell their own members to stay at home because the churches are not stocked with supplies for a SHTF disaster; and individual homes are usually much better supplied and potentially safer during a violence-SHTF. Churches are also almost non-defendable with large meeting rooms. If you find a small church that appears open, it may have already been broke into with no church members present. Every Church member also has a home, with most having family, and elderly members. They will be with their families and not at the worship site on day’s 1-2-3. It has been suggested that police will not be at work. Why? Because they have family too. They have back-up strategies for such an event.
    2. WHERE TO GO IF YOU ARE NOT AT HOME. Please let me reply to this in a round-about way. If you were an enlisted soldier, and you needed to get from point-A, where your vehicle could proceed no further) to point-B (your assigned duty station, say 5 miles further), you would have already been given a back-up route for such a situation that would avoid main roads (traffic jams and mobs of people), large facilities where panicked people go (schools, hospitals, malls).. They would have you travel from cover to cover (example, from one large tree to the next in order to stay hidden as much as possible from everybody). What is that route? fields, greenspace, railroad tracks, creeks, lake shores, city sections with houses instead of apartments and with less houses because of large yards and in supposedly nicer areas where there is less criminal violence, etc. Push come to shove, they would wait out “bullets flying” in 1-foot deep fox-holes (that is enough to hide your body from flying debris) and it is essentially the same advice to the public when outdoors during a sudden tornado (lay low, in a depression or culvert). Now every woman in America could put a garden hand shovel into a purse, and scratch out the same fox hole to wait out an unruly crowd wreaking havoc somewhere along the route. Men could carry one in a briefcase, duffle bag, in a tall boot, or in a coat. My point is do what the military does, they are trained for this. Urban combat training was already being designed 25+ years ago during Desert Storm (1990-91) because of the plan to enter Bagdad. Find greenways that meander toward your home. Drive (bike, walk) them. Make them your alternate route whenever something dreadful may happen that leads to civilian mayhem. during the first days of confusion. Confusion can be your “friend”, if you are prepared, because often there is less danger whene everyone is confused).
    RUSES. Also create ruses for yourself should anyone stop you. If you know the main roads in each consecutive neighborhood, you can tell someone who stops you that you are trying to reach that main road near your home. That will ID you as being a member of that greater neighborhood. If you are with another person tell those who stop you that you are trying to get your contagious friend home before s/he goes into a full outbreak. You have to have a “story” for everyone who stops you.
    AXES. Don’t pull out any weapon of any sort publically. Also, the greater the threat, the more body and bag searches take place. If you have an axe it will be taken from you, and you will go to detention, and be drilled with questions before you are released. A garden shovel can be explained as given to you when visiting your mother, because you misplaced yours and had to get home so didn’t have time to buy a new one..
    SUMMARY: So you need to first get to your preferred emergency route home (that you have pre-determined for yourself) to avoid panicky-desperate people, and large facilities with the same people. Then, if you are stopped tell one of your ruse stories. And you do have to travel from cover to cover to minimize your silhouette and presence (maximal hiding is better than fighting). And if debris or bullets are flying “lay low” in a depression and use something on your person to scratch out a fox-hole until the event has passed (shoe heels, nearby rocks or sticks, etc.). If you are real far from home, consider a folding bicycle in your trunk or a regular one in your truck; but you still need to know your “best bet” route and the best time of day to travel it. Paul’s reply (Dec. 18, 2017) is good.. Dozens of expired (but with good info) military manuals are released (pdf, free downloads) for the public at large. Do a web search. If you find a “pay” site, search further. I have dozens of good info military manuals for free by pdf download, to remind myself despite being a long ago ex-combat vet. .

  • Avoid crowds.Two’s company,…

  • Thanks for the information, all very helpful.

  • Apparently the author of this article just did a copy and pate from other copy and paste articles. Its that obvious the author never put into practice what she preaches. I am a disabled army vet with 20 years service. The expression…been there…done that sums up my accumulated experiences. For example, no body mentioned escape at night via a stream, river, harbor of a large urban area which leads to less populated areas. A simple blow up raft using your hands as paddles beats swimming, hands down. If you are near a wooded area you recon’d previously, you can scout out the terrain to construct what appears to be a trash dump, butt, it actually is cover to a small cave. Not all emergencies are those of roving gangs, butt are caused by Ma Nature, hurricanes, tornado’s, rivers flooding their banks, wild forest fires, etc. The critical part here is to keep a cool head, size up the situation, seek high ground if possible, look for objects that float and ride out the storm. In a forest fire, one has to run as fast as one can and seek a water refuge like a swamp, stream, lake, etc.

    The points I make are I very rudimentary, avoid herd responses, think outside the box, ‘cuz nobody does in urban survival. Your local junk/salvage yard can make all the difference to your survival when it comes to improvising shelter, weapons, riding out the storm. One has to know the surrounding terrain to know where the natural drainage features are to get out, via a waterway

  • As for “Find out in time which manhole covers in your city offer safe access tunnels or other areas to hide in.” how ludicrous. Is there a map for every single manhole cover in the entire city stating this information which one then carries around with oneself daily? I’m sure some of this information would be confidential because terrorists would love to know where the tunnels are and to which buildings they’re connected. I stopped reading when I got to heavy ropes and hooks for swinging from one building to another (the author has bern watching too many special effects action movies). NOBODY carries this stuff with them daily . Does the female writer realuze how heavy these are? Then when she mentiins an axe, again who has one and carries it on their person every day? Because when the SHTF you win’t have time to run to your car or home to fetch it. I’m sorry to be sexist (I’m a female, too, by the way) but this woman seems to have little actual survival experience and apparently read what she recommends in a book somewhere. Next time get a knowledgeable guy or gurl to write such an article, not someone mired in fantasies who maybe only knows how to grow a garden to feed themselves if the groxeey stores are too far away or have been destroyed. Women like authir Carmela guve other women a bad name.

  • The author’s list of things to avoid narrows it down to every public and human occupied place.
    The whole world isn’t going to be caving ian and calling all at once.
    No one other than the very tip top pinnacle of human elite fitness is going to cross from roof to roof by ropes. This nonsense is Hollywood level stupid. Even Special Forces would find a more practical way.
    The only sensible practical thing to do is let people go abut what they do, rebuild. Man has faced countless catastrophes and yet we always pick up the ess and go back to work.
    The only advice of avoidance is offensive but truthful. Avoid Democrat areas. That is where people with no morals and a sense of entitlement and no work ethic are in density. Look at the cities that are burning. But they are now fanning out fleeing their own disaster.
    Avoid black people who account for the vast majority of violence despite what the media lies have been saying… and Muslim and mid easterners. Actually this is the time to deal with these never invited invaders instead of running. But that is a whole other conversation.

    • You do realize this is the nightmare scenario right ?
      Where it’s total gov control
      Fema camps
      food rationing
      population reduction..

      Not reality, just a thought process like “gaming what if” worst of the worst.
      Though I suppose some few take it as what will be.

      Time will tell, election looms.

  • The problems listed in this article are exactly why I will never live in a big city. I actually choose to live in a semi-rural area because of the problems described.
    Remember this: ANY government or non-government civic shelter will have one policy I find abhorrent – you can not have guns in them, no matter what the situation. I refuse to be left defenseless because of someone’s misguided ideas about “security”.